2011 | 7 | 108-119
Article title

Top-down contingent feature-specific orienting with and without awareness of the visual input

Selected contents from this journal
Title variants
Languages of publication
In the present article, the role of endogenous feature-specific orienting for conscious and unconscious vision is reviewed. We start with an overview of orienting. We proceed with a review of masking research, and the definition of the criteria of experimental protocols that demonstrate endogenous and exogenous orienting, respectively. Against this background of criteria, we assess studies of unconscious orienting and come to the conclusion that so far studies of unconscious orienting demonstrated endogenous feature-specific orienting. The review closes with a discussion of the role of unconscious orienting in action control.
Physical description
  • Department of Psychology, University of Bielefeld, Germany
  • Faculty of Cultural Sciences, University of Paderborn, Germany
  • Allport, A. (1987). Selection for action: Some behavioral and neurophysiological considerations of attention and action. In H. Heuer & A. F. Sanders (Eds.),Perspectives on perception and action(pp. 395-419). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Alpern, M. (1953). Metacontrast.Journal of the Optical Society of America, 43, 648-657.
  • Ansorge, U. (2003). Asymmetric influences of temporally vs. nasally presented masked visual information: Evidence for collicular contributions to nonconscious priming effects.Brain and Cognition, 51, 317-325.
  • Ansorge, U., Becker, S. I., & Breitmeyer, B. G. (2009). Revisiting the metacontrast dissociation: Comparing sensitivity across different measures and tasks.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62, 286-309.
  • Ansorge, U., Breitmeyer, B. G., & Becker, S. I. (2007). Comparing sensitivity across different processing measures under metacontrast masking conditions.Vision Research, 47, 3335-3349.
  • Ansorge, U., & Heumann, M. (2003). Top-down contingencies in peripheral cuing: The roles of color and location.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29, 937-948.
  • Ansorge, U., & Heumann, M. (2004). Peripheral cuing by abrupt-onset cues: The role of color in S-Rcorresponding conditions.Acta Psychologica, 116, 115-132.
  • Ansorge, U., & Heumann, M. (2006). Shifts of visuospatial attention to invisible (metacontrast-masked) singletons: Clues from reaction times and event-related potentials.Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 2, 61-76.
  • Ansorge, U., & Horstmann, G. (2007). Preemptive control of attentional capture by color: Evidence from trial-by-trial analysis and ordering of onsets of capture effects in RT distributions.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60, 952-975.
  • Ansorge, U., Horstmann, G., & Carbone, E. (2005). Top-down contingent capture by color: Evidence from RT distribution analyses in a manual choice reaction task.Acta Psychologica, 120, 243-266.
  • Ansorge, U., Horstmann, G., & Worschech, F. (2010). Attentional capture by masked color singletons.Vision Research, 50, 2015-2027.
  • Ansorge, U., Kiss, M., & Eimer, M. (2009). Goal-driven attentional capture by invisible colours: Evidence from event-related potentials.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16, 648-653.
  • Ansorge, U., Kiss, M., Worschech, F., & Eimer, M. (2011). The initial stage of visual selection is controlled by top-down task set: New ERP evidence.Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 73, 113-122.
  • Ansorge, U., Klotz, W., & Neumann, O. (1998). Manual and verbal responses to completely masked (unreportable) stimuli: Exploring some conditions for the metacontrast dissociation.Perception, 27, 1177-1189.
  • Ansorge, U., & Neumann, O. (2005). Intentions determine the effects of invisible metacontrast-masked primes: Evidence for top-down contingencies in a peripheral cueing task.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31, 762-777.
  • Bachmann, T. (1999). Twelve spatiotemporal phenomena and one explanation. In G. Aschersleben, T. Bachmann, & J. Müsseler (Eds.),Cognitive contributions to the perception of spatial and temporal events. Advances in psychology(pp. 173-206). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Bacon, W. F., & Egeth, H. E. (1994). Overriding stimulus-driven attentional capture.Perception & Psychophysics, 55, 485-496.
  • Belopolsky, A. V., Schreij, D., & Theeuwes, J. (2010). What is top-down about contingent capture?Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 72, 326-341.
  • Bergen, J. R., & Julesz, B. (1983). Parallel vs. serial processing in rapid pattern discrimination.Nature, 303, 696-698.
  • Bichot, N. P., Rossi, A. F., & Desimone, R. (2005). Parallel and serial neural mechanisms for visual search in macaque area V4.Science, 308, 529-534.
  • Bloch, A. M. (1885). Expériences sur la vision [Experiments about vision].Comptes Rendus de Seances de la Societe de Biologie Paris, 37, 493-495.
  • Breitmeyer, B. G. (1984).Visual masking: An integrative approach.Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Breitmeyer, B. G., & Ganz, L. (1976). Implications of sustained and transient channels for theories of visual pattern masking, saccadic suppression, and information processing.Psychological Review, 83, 1-36.
  • Breitmeyer, B. G., & Ogmen, H. (2006).Visual masking: Time slices through conscious and unconscious vision.Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Breitmeyer, B. G., Ogmen, H., & Chen, J. (2004). Unconscious priming by color and form: Different processes and levels.Consciousness and Cognition, 13, 138-157.
  • Breitmeyer, B. G., Ro, T., & Singhal, N. S. (2004). Unconscious color priming occurs at stimulus-not percept-dependent levels of processing.Psychological Science, 15, 198-202.
  • Brembs, B. (2011). Towards a scientific concept of free will as a biological trait: Spontaneous actions and decision making in invertebrates.Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, Biological Sciences, 278, 930-939.
  • Bridgeman, B., & Leff, S. (1979). Interaction of stimulus size and retinal eccentricity in metacontrast masking.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 5, 101-109.
  • Bueno, C. A., & Andersen, R. A. (2006). The posterior parietal cortex: Sensorimotor interface for the planning and online control of visually guided movements.Neuropsychologia, 13, 2594-2606.
  • Burnham, B. R. (2007). Displaywide visual features associated with a search display's appearance can mediate attentional capture.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 392-422.
  • Burnham, B. R., & Neely, J. H. (2008). A static color discontinuity can capture spatial attention when the target is an abrupt-onset singleton.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34, 831-841.
  • Duncan, J., & Humphreys, G. W. (1989). Visual search and stimulus similarity.Psychological Review, 96, 433-458.
  • Eimer, M. (1997). Uniformative symbolic cues may bias visual-spatial attention: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence.Biological Psychology, 46, 67-71.
  • Eimer, M., & Kiss, M. (2008). Involuntary attentional capture is determined by task set: Evidence from event-related brain potentials.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20, 1423-1433.
  • Eimer, M., Kiss, M., Press, C., & Sauter, D. (2009). The roles of feature-specific task set and bottom-up salience in attentional capture: An ERP study.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35, 1316-1328.
  • Eimer, M., & Schlaghecken, F. (1998). Effects of masked stimuli on motor activation: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 1737-1747.
  • Enns, J. T. (2004). Object substitution and its relation to other forms of visual masking.Vision Research, 44, 1321-1331.
  • Enns, J. T., & Di Lollo, V. (1997). Object substitution: A new form of masking in unattended visual locations.Psychological Science, 8, 135-140.
  • Eriksen, C. W. (1960). Discrimination and learning without awareness: A methodological survey and evaluation.Psychological Review, 67, 279-300.
  • Fehrer, E., & Raab, D. (1962). Reaction time to stimuli masked by metacontrast.Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 143-147.
  • Folk, C. L., & Remington, R. W. (1998). Selectivity in distraction by irrelevant featural singletons: Evidence for two forms of attentional capture.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 847-858.
  • Folk, C. L., Remington, R. W., & Johnston, J. C. (1992). Involuntary covert orienting is contingent on attentional control settings.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 18, 1030-1044.
  • Friesen, C. K., & Kingstone, A. (1998). The eyes have it! Reflexive orienting is triggered by nonpredictive gaze.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 5, 490-495.
  • Goodale, M. A., & Milner, A. D. (1992). Separate visual pathways for perception and action.Trends in NeuroSciences, 15, 20-25.
  • Held, B., Ansorge, U., & Müller, H. (2010). Masked singleton effects.Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 72, 2069-2086.
  • Helmholtz, H. v. (1895). Ueber den Ursprung der richtigen Deutung unserer Sinneseindrücke [On the origin of the correct interpretation of our sensory impressions].Wissenschaftliche Abhandlungen, Dritter Band [Scientific essays, third volume] (pp. 536-553). Leipzig, Germany: Barth.
  • Helmholtz, H. v. (1896). Die neueren Fortschritte in der Theorie des Sehens [The recent progress in the theory of vision].Vorträge und Reden, Erster Band[Lectures and speeches, first volume] (pp. 265-366). Braunschweig, Germany: Viehweg.
  • Holender, D. (1986). Semantic activation without conscious identification in dichotic listening, parafoveal vision, and visual masking: A survey and appraisal.Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9, 1-66.
  • Hommel, B., Pratt, J., Colzato, L., & Godijn, R. (2001). Symbolic control of visual attention.Psychological Science, 12, 360-365.
  • Hickey, C., McDonald, J. J., & Theeuwes, J. (2006). Electrophysiological evidence of the capture of visual attention.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 604-613.
  • Itti, L., & Koch, C. (2001). Computational modelling of visual attention.Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2, 4-11.
  • Ivanoff, J., & Klein, R. M. (2003). Orienting of attention without awareness is affected by measurement-induced attentional control settings.Journal of Vision, 3, 32-40.
  • Jaśkowski, P., van der Lubbe, R. H. J., Schlotterbeck, E., & Verleger, R. (2002). Traces left on visual selective attention by stimuli that are not consciously identified.Psychological Science, 13, 48-54.
  • Jonides, J. (1981). Voluntary versus automatic control over the mind's eye's movement. In J. B. Long & A. D. Baddeley (Eds.),Attention and performance, IX (pp. 187-203). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Kiss, M., Jolicoeur, P., Dell'Acqua, R., & Eimer, M. (2008). Attentional capture by visual singletons is mediated by top-down task set: New evidence from the N2pc component.Psychophysiology, 45, 1013-1024.
  • Klotz, W., & Wolff, P. (1995). The effect of a masked stimulus on the response to the masking stimulus.Psychological Research, 58, 92-101.
  • Klotz, W., & Neumann, O. (1999). Motor activation without conscious discrimination in metacontrast masking.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25, 976-992.
  • Kristjánsson, Á., Vuilleumier, P., Malhotra, P., Husain, M., & Driver, J. (2005). Priming of color and position during visual search in unilateral spatial neglect.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17, 859-873.
  • Lambert, A., Spencer, E., & Mohindra, N. (1987). Automaticity and the capture of attention by a peripheral display change.Current Psychological Research and Reviews, 6, 136-147.
  • Lamme, V. A. F. (2003). Why visual awareness and attention are different.Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7, 12-18.
  • Lamy, D., & Zoaris, L. (2009). Task-irrelevant stimulus salience affects visual search.Vision Research, 49, 1472-1480.
  • Langton, S. R. H., & Bruce, V. (1999). Reflexive visual orienting in response to the social attention of others.Visual Cognition, 6, 541-567.
  • Leber, A. B., & Egeth, H. E. (2006). It's under control: Top-down strategies can override attentional capture.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13, 132-238.
  • Leuthold, H., & Kopp, B. (1998). Mechanisms of priming by masked stimuli: Inferences from event-related brain potentials.Psychological Science, 9, 263-269.
  • Maljkovic, V., & Nakayama, K. (1994). Priming of pop-out: I. Role of features.Memory & Cognition, 22, 657-672.
  • McCormick, P. A. (1997). Orienting attention without awareness.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 23, 168-180.
  • Mulckhuyse, M., Talsma, D., & Theeuwes, J. (2007). Grabbing attention without knowing: Automatic capture of attention by subliminal spatial cues.Visual Cognition, 15, 779-788.
  • Mulckhuyse, M., & Theeuwes, J. (2010a). Unconscious cueing effects in saccadic eye movements: Facilitation and inhibition in temporal and nasal hemifield.Vision Research, 50, 606-613.
  • Mulckhuyse, M., & Theeuwes, J. (2010b). Unconscious orienting to exogenous cues: A review of the literature.Acta Psychologica, 143, 199-209.
  • Müller, H. J., & Rabbitt, P. M. A. (1989). Reflexive and voluntary orienting of visual attention: Time course of activation and resistance to interruption.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 15, 315-330.
  • Nakayama, K., & Mackeben, M. (1989). Sustained and transient components of focal visual attention.Vision Research, 29, 1631-1647.
  • Neumann, O. (1987). Beyond capacity: A functional view of attention. In H. Heuer & A. F. Sanders (Eds.),Perspectives on perception and action(pp. 361-394). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Neumann, O., & Klotz, W. (1994). Motor responses to nonreportable, masked stimuli: Where is the limit of direct parameter specification? In C. Umiltà & M. Moscovitch (Eds.),Attention and Performance, XV: Conscious and Nonconscious Information Processing(pp. 123-150). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Neumann, O., & Scharlau, I. (2007a). Experiments on the Fehrer-Raab effect and the "Weather Station Model" of visual backward masking.Psychological Research, 71, 667-677.
  • Neumann, O., & Scharlau, I. (2007b). Visual attention and the mechanism of metacontrast.Psychological Research, 71, 626-633.
  • Ogawa, T., & Komatsu, H. (2004). Neuronal dynamics of bottom-up and top-down processes in area V4 of macaque monkeys performing a visual search.Experimental Brain Research, 173, 1-13.
  • Ogawa, T., & Komatsu, H. (2009). Condition-dependent and condition-independent target selection in the macaque posterior parietal cortex.Journal of Neurophysiology, 101, 721-736.
  • Parkhurst, D., Law, K., & Niebur, E. (2002). Modelling the role of salience in the allocation of overt visual attention.Vision Research, 42, 107-123.
  • Posner, M. I. (1980). Orienting of attention.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 32, 3-25.
  • Posner, M. I., & Cohen, Y. (1984). Components of visual orienting. In H. Bouma & D. G. Bouwhuis (Eds.),Attention and performance, X: Control of language processes(pp. 531-556). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Pratt, J., & McAuliffe, J. (2002). Determining whether attentional control settings are inclusive or exclusive.Perception & Psychophysics, 8, 1361-1370.
  • Reeves, A. J. (1981). Metacontrast in hue substitution.Vision Research, 22, 961-966.
  • Reingold, E. M., & Merikle, P. M. (1988). Using direct and indirect measures to study perception without awareness.Perception & Psychophysics, 44, 563-575.
  • Remington, R. W., Johnston, J. C., & Yantis, S. (1992). Involuntary attentional capture by abrupt onsets.Perception & Psychophysics, 51, 279-290.
  • Reus, H., Pohl, C., Kiesel, A., & Kunde, W. (2011). Follow the sign! Top-down contingent attentional capture of masked arrow cues.Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 7, 82-91.
  • Scharlau, I. (2004a). Evidence for split foci of attention from a priming paradigm.Perception & Psychophysics, 66, 988-1002.
  • Scharlau, I. (2004b). Spatial distribution of visual attention in perceptual latency priming.The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology(A),57, 1411-1437.
  • Scharlau, I. (2007). Perceptual latency priming: A measure of attentional facilitation.Psychological Research, 71, 678-686.
  • Scharlau, I., & Ansorge, U. (2003). Direct parameter specification of an attention shift: Evidence from perceptual latency priming.Vision Research, 43, 1351-1363.
  • Scharlau, I., Ansorge, U., & Horstmann, G. (2006). Latency facilitation in temporal-order judgments: Time course of facilitation as a function of judgment type.Acta Psychologica, 122, 129-159.
  • Scharlau, I., & Neumann, O. (2003a). Perceptual latency priming by masked and unmasked stimuli: Evidence for an attentional explanation.Psychological Research, 67, 184-197.
  • Scharlau, I., & Neumann, O. (2003b). Temporal parameters and time course of perceptual latency priming.Acta Psychologica, 113, 185-203.
  • Schiller, P. H., & Chorover, S. L. (1966). Metacontrast: Its relation to evoked potentials.Science, 153, 1398-1400.
  • Schmidt, T. (2002). The finger in flight: Real-time motor control by visually masked color stimuli.Psychological Science, 13, 112-117.
  • Schreij, D., Owens, C., & Theeuwes, J. (2008). Abrupt onsets capture attention independent of top-down control settings.Perception & Psychophysics, 70, 208-218.
  • Stigler, R. (1910). Chronoptische Studien über den Umgebungskontrast [Chronoptical studies on metacontrast].Pflüger's Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie[Pflüger's Archive of the Complete Physiology],134, 365-435.
  • Theeuwes, J. (1992). Perceptual selectivity for color and form.Perception & Psychophysics, 51, 599-606.
  • Theeuwes, J. (2010). Top-down and bottom-up control of visual selection.Acta Psychologica, 123, 77-99.
  • Theeuwes, J., Atchley, P., & Kramer, A. F. (2000). On the time course of top-down and bottom-up control of visual attention. In S. Monsell & J. Driver (Eds.),Attention and performance XVIII(pp. 105-125). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Tipples, J. (2002). Eye gaze is not unique: Automatic orienting in response to uninformative arrows.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9, 314-318.
  • Titchener, E. M. (1908).Lectures on the elementary psychology of feeling and attention.New York: MacMillan.
  • Treisman, A. M., & Gelade, G. (1980). A feature-integration theory of attention.Cognitive Psychology, 12, 97-136.
  • Van der Stigchel, S., Mulckhuyse, M., & Theeuwes, J. (2009). Eye can't see it: The interference of subliminal distractors on saccade metrics.Vision Research, 49, 2104-2109.
  • Vath, N., & Schmidt, T. (2007). Tracing sequential waves of rapid visuomotor activation in lateralized readiness potentials.Neuroscience, 145, 197-208.
  • Vorberg, D., Mattler, U., Heinecke, A., Schmidt, T., & Schwarzbach, J. (2003). Different time courses for visual perception and action priming.Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 100, 6275-6280.
  • Weiskrantz, L. (1986).Blindsight: A case study and implications.Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
  • Weiskrantz, L., Warrington, E. K., Sanders, M. D., & Marshall, J. (1974). Visual capacity in the hemianopic field following a restricted occipital ablation.Brain, 97, 709-728.
  • Wolfe, J. M. (1994). Guided search 2.0: A revised model of visual search.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 1, 202-238.
  • Woodman, G. F., & Luck, S. J. (2003). Dissociations among attention, perception, and awareness during object-substitution masking.Psychological Science, 14, 605-611.
  • Yantis, S. (1988). On analog movements of visual attention.Perception & Psychophysics, 43, 203-206.
  • Yantis, S. (1993). Stimulus-driven attentional capture and attentional control settings.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 19, 676-681.
  • Yantis, S., & Jonides, J. (1984). Abrupt visual onsets and selective attention: Evidence from visual search.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 10, 601-621.
  • Zhang, W.-W., & Luck, S. (2009). Feature-based attention modulates feedforward visual processing.Nature Neuroscience, 12, 24-25.
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.